The archipelago could very well be a National Park.
The San Juan archipelago harbors mythical beauty amid its islands, bluffs and seascapes; its regional historical relevance is just as stunning! Spend the day on our San Juan Island Tour discovering this mysterious landscape with a naturalist guide. As the morning ferry glides toward Friday Harbor, keep an eye out for sea life and birds. This hour-long ferry ride will keep you glued to your window or deck railing as you slip between islands.
Once on San Juan Island, fantastic walking options, birding spots, and whale watching from shore will keep you busy. If the islands weren’t lightly populated–the whole place would make an incredible National Park! Picnic with local fare and then explore historic British and American “Pig War” camps. Explore the rocky coastline and old lighthouse of Lime Kiln State Park; bring your binoculars–it’s generally considered one of the best places on the planet to watch for whales from shore! As the sun begins to set–hop into a seaplane for a gorgeous flight back to Seattle.
The peaceful hour-long ferry ride from Anacortes is a marine cruise in itself and is an excellent opportunity to keep an eye out for an impressive diversity of wildlife, including Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, Dall’s and Harbor Porpoises, Stellar’s and California Sea Lions, a variety of marine birds, and even our resident Orcas if you’re lucky. After traversing the scenic waterways between islands such as Cypress, Lopez, Orcas, and Shaw, we reach the quaint but charming seaside town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
Disembark from the ferry and head in one of several directions to stretch your legs and smell the sea breeze. Options might include: a moderately-challenging hike to the top of Young Hill for remarkable views of the San Juan archipelago, beach-combing along the driftwood-strewn South Beach, or exploring the historic American and English “Pig War” Camps, which are part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park (they were encampments during a post-Civil War boundary dispute between the United States and England).
Afternoons are best to venture to Lime Kiln State Park, considered one of the best places for observing Orcas from land in North America (and an excellent alternative for a picnic lunch). Even if J-, K-, or L-pod (orca families) aren’t around, the dramatic and stunning views across Haro Strait towards Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains are well worth the stop, not to mention there is often plenty of other marine wildlife to keep an eye out for during a short hike along the shoreline.
We might end the day with a visit to Pelindaba Lavender Farm to revel in the intoxicating aroma of acres of lavender, or San Juan Vineyards for tasting locally-grown Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine varietals, among others, before finally getting in line for the return ferry with enough time to explore Friday Harbor (and perhaps sampling some delicious local fish and chips or – even better – ice cream!) on your own.
6:15a: Depart Seattle for Anacortes
Meet your guide bright and early (don’t worry, we’re bringing lots of coffee!) and head north to Anacortes where you’ll grab a ferry through the San Juan archipelago to Friday Harbor (or to Orcas if you’re visiting Orcas Island).
8:55a: Ferry to Friday Harbor
This ferry ride is a highlight in itself – cruise through this stunning island chain and simply enjoy being on the water.
10:00a: Explore San Juan Island
Your naturalist guide will give you an introduction to these dynamic islands, detailing the natural history, curiosities of modern settlement, and providing ample opportunity to take in many spectacular views. Maybe you’ll picnic at a lavender farm or tramp through the bluffs around Lime Kiln County Park. It’s up to you!
1:00p: Optional sea kayaking adventure
If you’d like – take the chance to get on the water with San Juan Island’s very best kayaking guides! Or maybe you’d prefer a whale-watching adventure. There is plenty to do and we can curate the day according to your interests.
5:30p: Return to Seattle via ferry or seaplane flight
The choice is yours – venture back to Seattle with your guide the way you came, admittedly, it’s a longer day this way. Alternatively, take a scenic seaplane flight – just a 50-minute journey from the Islands back to Seattle – the views will take your breath away!